Customer turns pancakes into racist message for black waitress

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SHERMAN, Texas (KXII) UPDATED WITH STATEMENT FROM BELLS ISD BELOW

A photo taken of a hateful message carved in food at the Sherman IHOP sparked social media outrage New Year’s Eve Day.

“At the moment I’m like I don’t believe this,” Tenasha Ballard said. “I’m seeing this wrong. So I went to the tables at the front and said what do you see on this plate? What letters are these? And they said KKK. And I said I thought so.”

Ballard said she had just finished serving four high school kids at a local restaurant, and left to get them a to-go coffee cup. When she came back to the table the kids were gone and, Ballard said, she found pancakes cut into the letters “KKK”.

Ballard tells News12 she took a photo of the pancakes with Snap Chat, then posted it to Facebook before she went to bed.

“I just can’t get over it because these kids we were just joking,” Ballard said. “And then it got serious and I’m like how. How? Like what was it besides my skin color that made you think this was going to be funny.”

Ballard said the young men were wearing Bells letterman jackets.

“Everyone was trying to point blame like I’m calling out the town when I didn’t the kids called out their own town,” Ballard said. “For them to come out in their school colors and disrespect someone because no one is going to do anything then they knew that they could do that. They felt like they could.”

Bells ISD Superintendent Dr. Joe D. Moore sent News12 this statement in response to the incident:

"We regret this action was taken by our students. It is in no way reflective of BISD nor the community of Bells. As I understand, it took place at 2:30 a.m. and it was not a school related event nor were the students under BISD supervision in any way. In addition, it is worth noting BISD students are awarded letterman jackets for participation in numerous organizations, not just athletics. Again, we regret this occurred and wish Ms. Ballard the very best."

The photo has since been taken down, but not before being shared hundreds of times.

We asked IHOP for surveillance of the incident. Their corporate office reiterated the incident was created by a guest displaying a hateful image in their food, not the restaurant, and that it is under investigation.

IHOP Restaurants LLC released a statement stating in part, “Any display of discrimination is against the IHOP brand values and the values that the franchisees of this location upholds.”

“They just crushed my spirit. I didn’t know what to do after that,” Ballard said.

Ballard said it was the second racist comment against a server that night, that another server was called the n-word when she offered to get a customer OJ.

She told us she shared the photo not just to address the racism, but the disrespect servers face at their jobs every day.

“Respect people. It’s one of the things that I was always taught,” Ballard said. “If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say it. Don’t spell it in food. Don’t say it.”